Hate to spoil all your New Year's hopes and dreams but a "global crisis" may be looming for 2018. Given that "the global order is unraveling" in "a world without leadership," Eurasia Group has said, "If we had to pick one year for a big unexpected crisis - the geopolitical equivalent of the 2008 financial meltdown - it feels like 2018." The New York-based political risk consultancy lists 10 possibilities, including several related to declining US influence. The biggest seven:
China Filling a gap vacated by the US, China is extending its influence "with less resistance than ever before," threatening economies and suggesting friction with the US.
Geopolitical accidents: With less trust among actors, missteps in North Korea, Syria, and Russia could lead to confrontations.
Global tech cold war: The US and China are seeking new technologies in "the world's biggest fight over economic power," while other countries fight for market dominance.
Mexico: The outcome of a NAFTA renegotiation and a presidential election in July "both carry significant market risks."
Iran: Tensions will rise as the country pushes back against US efforts to curtail its regional influence. If the US-Iran nuclear deal falters, the Middle East could be thrown into disarray.
Erosion of institutions: "The expansion of an increasingly toxic antiestablishment sentiment is starting to erode the legitimacy of political institutions in established democracies," making for less stability.
Protectionism 2.0: A continuing shift toward a new form of protectionism that "generates more acrimony because it is often targeted at political adversaries" poses risks for trade in 2018.
Think It's Cold Now? Wait ‘til Thursday!
So far, at least two people have died due to cold as record low temperatures gripped much of the U.S. But if you think it's bad now, wait until tomorrow! Although the cold should ease across most of the United States, the northeastern quarter of the country will have to brace for another arctic blast and likely see a repeat of the frigid temperatures from Thursday to Friday. Along Alabama's Gulf Coast, the temperature in the city of Mobile could hit a low of 16 overnight. Stiff breezes were expected to create dangerously cold wind chills across southeastern Georgia and most of northeastern Florida, the weather service said. Omaha, Nebraska, posted a low of minus 20, breaking a 130-year-old record, and Aberdeen, South Dakota, shattered a record set in 1919 with a temperature of minus 32. AccuWeather said the cold snap could combine with a storm brewing off the Bahamas to bring snow and high winds to much of the Eastern Seaboard as it heads north on Wednesday and Thursday. The only part of the United States spared the deep freeze is the Southwest, with above-normal temperatures and dry weather expected to linger there.(RawStory.com)
Guy Fieri's NYC Restaurant Closes Down
Being a popular celebrity chef doesn't necessarily mean you can run a great restaurant. Guy Fieri's Times Square eatery, Guy's American Kitchen & Bar, has closed down for good, serving up its last dishes during a private event held there on New Year's Eve. Guy's troubles started with a scathing New York Times review, followed by pushback from the celebrity chef in the hot seat. Fieri didn't offer an explanation for the shuttering of what the Washington Post calls the "most mocked restaurant in America," which opened in 2012 and was instantly subjected to criticism from Yelp reviewers, fellow celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, and Pete Wells, who penned the now-infamous review that asked: "Guy Fieri, have you eaten at your new restaurant in Times Square?" But despite the bad press, the restaurant made a chunk of change, bringing in more than $16 million a year, and it still made it onto Restaurant Business Online's top 100 list for independent restaurants. (Newser)
Beautiful and Very Sad Short Marriage
In Hartford, Connecticut, Heather Mosher finally married the man of her dreams, and then died just a few hours later, from breast cancer. The small wedding ceremony was held just a few days before Christmas at St. Francis Hospital where Heather was being treated for Triple-Negative, an extremely aggressive form of breast cancer. The ceremony was held in the hospital chapel with Heather and her husband, David Mosher, surrounded by family and friends. The bride, who was on life support, said her vows from her hospital bed, decked out in a wedding dress, jewelry, and a wig. Eighteen hours later, she was gone. The couple, who met as part of a swing dance group, got engaged one year to the day before Heather died, Dec. 23, 2016, the same day Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer. After the cancer began spreading in September, doctors told David that Heather likely wouldn't make it to the couple's scheduled wedding date, so they pushed the ceremony forward a week. On Dec. 30, David Mosher attended his new wife's funeral at the same time they had planned to be married. (WFSB News)
Flying in 2017 Was Ridiculously Safe!
Here's at least some good news from 2017 - it was a ridiculously safe year for flying. Two separate reports reveal zero crashes of commercial passenger jets anywhere in the world! The reports come courtesy of the To70 Dutch consultancy group and the Aviation Safety Network, with the latter proclaiming 2017 "the safest year ever, both by the number of fatal accidents as well as in terms of fatalities." The ASN notes there were only 10 fatal airliner accidents in total last year (half cargo planes, half turbo-prop aircraft), resulting in 44 fatalities on the planes and 35 on the ground. Compare that with 2016, when the group registered 16 accidents that led to 303 deaths. The last commercial passenger jet crash with fatalities happened in November 2016 in Colombia, killing 71, while the last commercial passenger airline to kill more than 100 took place in October 2015 in Egypt, with 224 deaths. The deadliest year for flying on record was 1972, when 2,469 people died on 55 commercial flights. However, a To70 rep says, "It is unlikely that this historic low will be maintained. In part, these very positive figures rest on good fortune." The To70 report adds "there is no room for complacency," noting areas that require scrutiny, including fatigue among crew members and the fire hazard posed by lithium-ion batteries in passengers' electronic devices. (Reuters)
Time's Up for Sexual Harassment
A new group is spearheading the fight against harassment in Hollywood, with the support of a few pretty big industry players. The Time's Up initiative was launched on New Year's Day on behalf of more than 300 film, TV, and theater celebrities in the wake of the MeToo movement that kicked off after the allegations of sexual misconduct and assault against Harvey Weinstein. The Times Up website notes: "The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment, and inequality in the workplace. It's time to do something about it." Luminaries such as Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, Meryl Streep, and Jennifer Aniston are among those taking part in the coalition, which includes a legal defense fund, news and stats on women in entertainment, and resources for everyone from workers on movie sets to A-list stars. "Earning a living should not come at the cost of anyone's safety, dignity, or morale," says a statement from Rhimes. "Every person should get to work in an environment free from abuse, assault, and discrimination." The defense fund, a tax-exempt charity that will offer legal help to those who've been subjected to sexual misconduct, has already pulled in more than $13 million from upward of 200 donors. The movement is also asking women to wear black to the Golden Globes on Sunday in solidarity with victims. "This is a moment of solidarity, not a fashion moment," says Time's Up member Eva Longoria. (New York Times)
Apparently 40 Stitches Will Really Mess Up Your Face
Fans of Carrie Underwood need to prepare themselves that she will never look the same again. The country singer says she injured more than her wrist in a fall outside her Nashville home in November and she will "look a bit different" as she needed 40 to 50 stitches to her face after the accident. She hasn't been ready to talk about the facial injury until now, and "there has been much uncertainty as to how things will end up," she writes in a letter to fans. "It's crazy how a freak random accident can change your life." The 34-year-old says she will spare fans the "gruesome details" of the Nov. 10 incident, when she tripped and fell on stairs outside the home. Underwood says she is healing but "not quite looking the same." "I want you all to understand why I might look a bit different" next time they see her face, she tells her fans. "I'm hoping that, by then, the differences are minimal, but, again, I just don't know how it's all going to end up." In an Instagram post last week, the singer's face was almost completely covered by a scarf. Underwood also says she says she is "grateful that it wasn't much, much worse" and she will be back in the recording studio next week. "I've still got a ways to go in the recovery process, but it's encouraging to see every day be a little better than the last," she writes. (USA Today)
What the What?
A group of Muslims in Fort Smith, Arkansas, decided they'd "do what Jesus would do," and paid the fine for the local redneck who vandalized their mosque - thus keeping him out of jail. In October of 2016, the Masjid Al Salam mosque was vandalized by Abraham Davis who sprayed a swastika and the words "go home" on the front of the house of worship. Davis was convicted and sentenced to community service and a hefty fine - however failure to pay the fine would result in a six year prison term. When word reached the mosque that Davis didn't have the money to pay the fine, they stepped up and paid if for him. The President of Al Salam, Louay Nassri, said, "It shouldn't be hanging over him for the rest of his life. We knew this person did a bad thing and there has to be consequences for their actions. But we didn't have any ill feelings towards anybody." When Nassri learned Davis was having financial problems and would end up in prison Nassri said, "Well, we didn't want him to go to jail for six years." So just before the new year Nassri wrote a check for $1,700 to cover Davis' fine. The large sum of money was originally set aside for renovations to the mosque. Nassri noted, "If we would've known his troubles with us, we would've tried to help him. Communication is extremely important. Education is extremely important." (Arkansas Matters.com)